Teachers share the philosophies and materials that make them successful in their careers and classes.
As a 10-season competition dancer at Long Island Dance Connection in New York, Amanda Perry was over-the-top devoted to her dance training. Today, as a teacher at her home studio, she finds ways to inspire students, even if they don’t share her natural passion. “Some of them are just taking classes because their mom makes them,” she says, especially in the recreational program, where she teaches young dancers tap and ballet. Her solution is unbridled energy—“I’m always hyper”—and unbiased support—“We don’t brag about our competition team.”
When it comes to engaging her youngest dancers, Perry uses props to capture their attention and imagination. Scarves and paper snowflakes or silk leaves (depending on the season) can be used to demonstrate different movement qualities. Dancers practice leaping over rubber predators like sharks and toy frogs, and Perry arranges rubber stars in a circle on the floor to show fidgety students exactly where to stand. During exercises, she’ll occasionally ask everyone to move to a new star so no dancer has to stand still for too long.
To inspire frustrated or apathetic teens, Perry shares stories from her own training experience. She isn’t afraid to admit she was a less-than-graceful ballet dancer who bonded more with tap, jazz and hip hop. When dancers get something right—especially as a group—Perry takes the time to let them know. “The other week, my tap students were doing a step that they always have trouble with, and they were doing so great that I stopped the class to tell them it sounded so much better than it did the week before. They all said they could feel the difference.” DT
Dancewear: Perry reaches for jazz pants or leggings (Just For Kix shown) and a dance top (Athleta shown). “I try to look dance-teacher professional,” she says.
Special skills: Perry studied psychology and special education in college. While she hasn’t had many dancers with disabilities, she has a second job working at a preschool for disabled children.
For a treat: “My Dunkin’ Donuts caramel latte. It’s not the healthiest choice, but working with kids all day and going to your next job—I need that caffeine!”
To make you jealous: Perry says after a long week of teaching there’s nothing like taking a soak in her hot tub.
Teaching photos courtesy of Amanda Perry; clothing by Nathan Sayers; shoes courtesy of manufacturers; hot tub ©Thinkstock